As Zimbabwe watched President Robert Mugabe turn 93 with a birthday cake, celebration and some rambling commentary, what many may have missed was his public appraisal of his wife, Grace, as a potentially worthy successor to his office.
Mugabe appeared on state television Tuesday in a prerecorded interview, described by Newsday as a wide-ranging session, that touched on land use, employment and a host of topics. The one that caught their attention, though, was the president’s praise for his wife’s leadership capacities and well-honed political experience.
Mugabe told his interviewers that in the past, his Zanu PF party has supported the potential for the wives of leaders to seek political positions of their own – and there’s no reason to change that view.
“But what we get nowadays, from some quarters, is that leaders’ wives must not participate in politics, why not?” he remarked, briefly reciting the characteristics of strength and political seasoning she possesses.
At the same time, the oldest president in the world dismissed the idea of any of his deputies taking over for him and said that such a decision could only come from the people themselves when it is time.
Just days ago, Grace Mugabe made international headlines when she declared that her husband could stand for election next year even if he was dead.
The “run as a corpse” remarks were made at a rally in Buhera, and were widely condemned by the political opposition. A spokesman for the Zimbabwe People First party said her remarks reflected a mental crisis, and told New Zimbabwe that the party will be praying for the first lady’s health and recovery.